MARINElife Survey Report: ‘Enforcer’ Tilbury-Helsingborg-Gdynia-Teesport 14th -25th July 2019

Sightings Archive

Steve and Margaret Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife
16/7- 18/7 force 2-4 north becoming west. Moderate swell
19/7 in port
20/7 force 2 north east
21/7 force 3-4 south west
22/7 force 3-6 south west, heavy rain and swell
23/7-25/7 force 1-2 south east to south
25/7 38 degrees driving home!

Marine Mammals
Grey Seal Halichoerus grypus 12
Harbour Porpoise Phocoena phocoena 36
Minke Whale Balaenoptera acutorostrata 1
Unidentified Seal sp. 4
White-beaked dolphin Lagenorhynchus albirostris 8

Auk sp. Alcidae 6
Black-headed Gull Chroicocephalus ridibundus 153
Common Gull Larus canus 30
Common Scoter Melanitta nigra 119
Common Tern Sterna hirundo 123
Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo 275
Eider Somateria mollissima 10
Fulmar Fulmarus glacialis 60
Gannet Morus bassanus 554
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus 101
Great Skua Stercorarius skua 4
Greylag Goose Anser anser 2
Guillemot Uria aalge 113
Gull sp. Laridae 6
Herring Gull Larus argentatus 2017
Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla 263
Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus 252
Little Gull Hydrocoloeus minutus 219
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus 11
Puffin Fratercula arctica 37
Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis 7

Terrestrial Birds
Shelduck Tadorna tadorna 6
Swallow Hirundo rustica 20
Swift Apus apus 7
Whimbrel Numenius phaeopus 4
White Wagtail Motacilla alba alba 1
Mute Swan Cygnus olor 4
Passerine sp. 2
Sand Martin Riparia riparia 3
Dunlin Calidris alpine 1
House Martin Delichon urbicum 4
Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major 1
Grey Heron Ardea cinereal 7

14th July 2019

This would be our first survey for MARINElife in the North and East Baltic Sea and we were excited to be joining the container ship MV Enforcer. As pre-arranged, we parked our car at DP London Gateway Logistics in Stanford le Hope and a taxi took us to the dockside in Tilbury port. On arrival we were immediately met by the crew and were shown our spacious and well-appointed cabins.  Captain Martien Al warmly welcomed us to the ship and gave us a very handy precis of ships mealtimes and useful information about ship protocols. This is when we noted that the Kiel Canal would not be visited and that we would be calling at Teesport on the final leg. We then sat down together for a delicious lunch, the first of many excellent meals to be enjoyed on board.  A health and safety briefing and tour of the ship followed, and loading began late afternoon with a midnight departure.

15th July 2019

On the first morning we started surveying at 5am and Kittiwake, Gannet, Common Tern and Fulmar sightings kept us busy throughout. By the afternoon there was an increase in Kittiwake numbers off North Holland and two fishing vessels produced about 100 Gannet each.

Fishing vessel_Steve Boswell

Fishing Vessel (Steve Boswell)

16th July 2019

A sunny morning at dawn with blue skies and a slight swell was causing ship movement, we soon started to note good numbers of seabirds with a couple of Great Skua being the highlights. The afternoon was quiet but as we approached North Denmark a single Harbour Porpoise was spotted by Steve and another two 15 minutes later. There were many small fishing vessels just off the coast each with a long trail of seabirds. Two close encounters with vessels gave clear views of a mix of Herring and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Shortly before the entrance to the Skaggerak channel leading into the Baltic Sea in deeper water, an increase in depth from 30m to 100m, we had good close views of a Minke Whale off the starboard side. We ceased surveying at 19.50 as the sea state increased to 4 and we were pleased to have experienced a productive day.

Minke Peter Howlett 02

Minke Whale (Peter Howlett)

17th July 2019

A short lie in today as we had docked during the night! We woke up to a beautiful warm and sunny morning in Helsingborg and an early watch from the ship's bridge across the harbour produced small numbers of Eider, Cormorant, Common Gull, Black-headed Gull and Herring Gull. The captain kindly arranged a lift into town from the Seafarer's Mission and we had a couple of hours to explore this pleasant town before walking back to the ship. Sadly, the Harbour master at the port gate showed us a photograph of a dead Minke Whale laying across the bulbous bow of a ship that had arrived in port the previous week. We left at 12pm with a two-hour patch of bird activity including circa 700 Mute Swan by the spectacular Malmo to Copenhagen road bridge and two Harbour Porpoise were our first Baltic cetaceans. We sailed passed the famous migration watch point of Falsterbo, just a bit too early in the season for bird movement.  Later in the day three Harbour Porpoise, a glorious sunset and a green flash finished a very good day.

Off Falsterbo_Steve Boswell

Off Falsperbo (Steve Boswell)

18th July 2019

At first light we were off the coast of Poland passing the nature reserve of Slowinski Park Narodowy close to Leba lighthouse where we saw a couple of small flocks of Common Scoter, somewhat down on the 10,000 seen on the April survey. On our approach to Gdynia in mirror calm seas and the sun behind us, we observed several small flocks of mainly adult Little Gull in smart summer plumage feeding or landing on the water. As we sailed through the harbour entrance our noses were filled with the pungent smell of in excess of 1,000 Cormorant!


19th July 2019

As we were lucky to have a full day in Gdynia, we took the opportunity to take a trip to the seaside visiting the small, pleasant resort of Sopot by train.

Enforcer Helsingborg_Steve Boswell

Enforcer at Helsingborg (Steve Boswell)

20th July 2019

Having moved berth overnight and loaded we were ready to set sail by 11am in clear skies and not a breath of wind passing the cruise ship AidaMar as we left the harbour. A thick green algae bloom was present on the sea's surface as we moved away from the coast. No cetaceans were seen despite the perfect viewing conditions, but we did have Little Gull to keep us company.

Sailing_Steve Boswell

Sailing (Steve Boswell)

21st July 2019

Our first mammal encounter on a bright, calm morning was a Grey Seal in typical 'bottling posture' with head and upper body out of the water and a short time later two more seals were seen. Close to Helsingborg we had excellent views of small groups of Harbour Porpoise with the lighter pigmentation visible on the sides, 17 animals in total most in association with gulls and Cormorant.  As we sailed towards the Northern tip of Denmark we were escorted at the bow by a party of Lesser Black-backed Gull and there was still a group with us the next morning. We celebrated Sunday with Dutch apple cake and coffee on the bridge, the Captain's recipe made by the cook, Ryan; we will be making this at home!

GBB Gull Steve Boswell

Great Black-backed Gull (Steve Boswell)

22nd July 2019

A beautiful sunrise, a red rainbow and showers to start the day, however, within the hour visibility had reduced and heavy rain started, a typical grey North Sea emerged! The conditions became challenging for observation with continuous heavy rain for six hours, a strong wind and sea state 6. As the mass of bad weather moved away into Norway in the early afternoon, glare made for difficult viewing and the sea conditions remained rough all day. A total of 16 hours observation and no cetaceans seen. The day of the first hour and last hour, the last hour ending on a beautiful sunset.

23rd July 2019

Another bright sunny morning at dawn and Gannet, Kittiwake and auks were noted, four Whimbrel flew past. At 7.24am we were alerted to feeding activity by a diving Gannet and then splashing, and then the prominent tall falcate fin of White Beaked Dolphin engaged in feeding activity giving good close views. The diagnostic pale grey and white saddle just behind the fin was observed.  Shortly after 2 Harbour Porpoise appeared doing their usual slow rolling glide past and three small groups of Manx Shearwater flew past heading north. By mid-morning we were anchored eight miles offshore awaiting a time slot to enter the port. It was a beautiful day, the beginnings of a heat wave, and the North Sea off the Yorkshire coast was suddenly shimmering like the Mediterranean. Tantalisingly, large groups of diving Gannet could be seen towards the horizon, who knows what was beneath them!

WB Dolphin James Phillips 01

White-beaked Dolphin (James Phillips)

24th July 2019

During the night we docked in Teesport. Large numbers of Herring and a few Lesser Black- backed Gull were attending to their young on nearby factory roofs. During lunch the captain informed us that we were departing very soon. The pilot boarded and informed us that Otters bred in the harbour area and Grey Seal were often seen on the sandbanks. In lovely calm seas we were able to identify Harbour Porpoise and Grey Seal.  Between Flamborough Head and Spurn Point we started to see flocks of Little Gull migrating south, we wondered if they were from the Baltic!

25th July 2019

Our final day. We were surveying at 05.00 and the first bird recorded was a Greater Spotted Woodpecker which landed briefly on the containers. Unfortunately, as we neared the coast opposite Margate lots of balloons, beach balls and other general plastic waste were evident, all very sad.  We docked at Tilbury and we had time to say a big thankyou to Captain Martien Al and his crew for looking after us and making us feel so welcome. It was a real pleasure to be part of such a happy team. We were picked up promptly by Tim Harvard from John Good Shipping and driven back to our car in Stanford Le Hope.

Plastic Flamingo_Steve Bowell

Plastic Flamingo (Steve Boswell)

Steve and Margaret Boswell, Research Surveyors for MARINElife